What Is Khadi?
Khadi, pronounced [‘ka:di/kaa-dee], is an Indian hand-spun, hand woven fabric made from natural fibres such as cotton, silk or wool. It comes in a variety of weaves, textures and thickness-ranging from linen-like coarse khadi to highly refined muslin. It is an extremely versatile fabric and can be used for a variety of products such as clothing, bed linen and soft furnishing and costumes for the cinema and theatre.
Khadi is primarily made from cotton. Cotton balls are harvested from fields by mainly women (who account for 90% of the handpicking of cotton). Once the ball shells are removed the fibers that remain are carded into slivers ready for spinning.
Yarn is woven into fabric using a handloom – a simple and traditional weaving process using no electricity. The woven fabric is now ready to be stitched into a garment.
Slivers are thinned out and twisted into yarn using spinning wheels. The traditional Indian ‘charkha’ (pictured above) has now been largely replaced by ring-framed multi spindle spinning wheels – many of which are solar powered. Spun yarn is then prepared for dying, often using natural dyes.
Khadi embodies the spirit of freedom, simplicity and peace. Adaptations have been the hallmark of khadi and the idea of a khadi economy; an economy guided by the concept of diverse, democratic and decentralized production systems. Systems which respect the environment and embrace principles of fairness and social justice.
We are led by the ‘Three Ds’
Production through a network of decentralized units within a cluster/region with maximum value addition at source.
Promoting diversity in seeds, breeds, other raw materials and production methods, bringing together the best in local traditions and modern technology.
Aiming to give maximum control over ownership to farmers, graziers, artisans, communities and cooperatives.
Today khadi sustains over half a million people in India, mostly rural women. An emphasis on organic and introduction of solar-powered technologies are at the forefront of transformation in the khadi sector. While it continues to be a force for change in India, the idea of a khadi economy has the potential to become a force for change globally.
The entire process of making khadi
Produces zero to low carbon footprint.
Saves 3x more energy than milling cloth.
Uses 20% less water than conventional techniques.
We exist to support the work of designers who value craft and provenance while challenging the unsustainable practices of fast fashion and the throwaway culture.
Our fabric suppliers are based in different parts of India. We work closely with them to build capacity, improve standards and designs and adopt better business practices.
Our Values Are
Build from Bottom-Up
Trust Meets Compassion
Respect For Other Views
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The Story Of Hand Spun Cotton, India's Signature Fabric
Khadi is a term used for fabrics that are hand-spun and handwoven, usually from cotton fiber. However, contrary to popular belief, khadi is also manufactured from silk and wool, known as khadi silk or woolen khadi respectively. The fabric is known for its rugged texture, comfortable feel and ability to keep people warm in winter while keeping them cool during the summer.
Broadly speaking, khadi is manufactured in two steps: converting the fiber into yarn using tools like spinning wheels (Charkha) and then weaving the yarn into the fabric using looms. There are many steps like dyeing and strengthening of the fibers which can be explored in detail here. Both the spinning and weaving can be mechanized, resulting in the hand-loom fabric when the first step is mechanized and mill-made fabric when both steps are mechanized.
It is a coarse and easy fabric to sew. Patchwork, Kantha, Phulkari, and Block Printing are designed easily on this fabric. It has an unusual captivating appeal even in its plain form.
The fabric has facets spreading from printed, embroidery, hand-spun to hand loomed, warp print and jacquard. Its variety that we get today is not limited to the politician’s trousseau of a nehru style jacket. It has become a style quotient for the masses and the young crowd of modern India.
The sophisticated fabric with a simplistic appeal has been renowned globally not just for its heritage but also because of its fashion appeal. The rise of the fabric as high-quality materials in the handloom industry has added to its global demand.
It is one of the most wearable fabrics as it stays cool in summer and warm in winter.
Origin and History
It was re-discovered by freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi, as initiation of empowerment. The first fabric of Khadi was woven with the commencement of the Boycott Movement in India, which dates back to the 1920s. During the ‘Swadesi Movement’ that began by shunning foreign goods, it was widely publicized among the Indian population as an alternative to British textiles.
The industry was institutionalized by the government soon after independence. After the setting up of the Khadi Village Industry Commission (KVIC), India set its first foot into an independent terrain.
With technical advancements being introduced on a large scale in the apparel industry, the local industry is seeing the machine weaving take over the traditional process of manually spinning Khadi. Apart from the regular Kurtas and Sarees, there are Khadi shirts, pants, and skirts being manufactured. Innovative cuts and design are now becoming synonymous with the industry and being loved by many.